CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/756,256 filed Dec. 22, 2006, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
This invention relates generally to aircraft cockpit displays and more particularly, to methods and systems for displaying terrain maps on aircraft cockpit displays.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
At least some known aircraft include cockpit displays use charts that aid in navigation and situational awareness during flight and during flight planning. Charts typically are used for a wide variety of aspects of flight and flight planning and therefore may include data that is not needed for a particular current flight segment or task, but is included for periods when the chart is used for a different task. For example, terrain depictions on a cockpit display add information that may not improve situational awareness during particular aspects of a flight or flight planning. Terrain depictions may tend to reduce features of chart symbols when the chart symbol is overlaid onto a terrain depiction. Information that is displayed but not needed for the current operation tends to create information overload in the charting environment. Excessive information that is not important to the current operation tends to generate confusion in the flight crew.
In one embodiment, a method for displaying an en-route visible terrain display for an aircraft includes representing each pixel of a terrain display using a geographical location and an elevation above the location, each pixel further represented using at least one of a color value and a grayscale value, receiving a minimum elevation value, setting the at least one of a color value and a grayscale value of the pixels represented by an elevation value less than the received minimum elevation value to a uniform value, and displaying the en-route visible terrain display such that pixels representing terrain that includes an elevation value less than the minimum elevation value are displayed with the uniform value such that non-terrain-impacted, primary-navigation areas of the display are more easily readable.
In another embodiment, a display system for an aircraft includes an en-route visible terrain display screen configured to display a en-route visible terrain display representative of an area being traversed by the aircraft and a monochromatic overlay on the en-route visible terrain display screen displayed in areas of the en-route visible terrain display representative of an elevation less than a selectable minimum elevation value.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In yet another embodiment, a situational awareness system including an en-route visible terrain display is provided. The en-route visible terrain display includes a database for storing data relating to a digital elevation model of a portion of the earth's surface, wherein the model includes a plurality of pixels, said digital elevation model including a location coordinate and an elevation value associated with each pixel. The en-route visible terrain display further includes a processor coupled to the database wherein the processor is configured to receive the location coordinate and an elevation value associated with at least one pixel, receive a minimum elevation value for at least one pixel displayed on the en-route visible terrain display, determine at least one of a color value and grayscale value of the at least one pixel based on a comparison of the elevation value and the received minimum elevation value, and display a shaded terrain map comprising a plurality of the at least one pixels on the en-route visible terrain display using the location coordinate and the determined at least one of a color value and grayscale value.
FIG. 1 is a forward perspective view of an exemplary aircraft cockpit display panel that includes at least one display screen in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a terrain image of an exemplary area of the earth's surface;
FIG. 3 is an illustration of an exemplary en-route chart display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 4 is a flow chart of an exemplary method of generating an en-route visible terrain display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 1 is a forward perspective view of an exemplary aircraft cockpit display panel 100 that includes at least one display screen 102 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In the exemplary embodiment, display screen is positioned on aircraft cockpit display panel 100. In an alternative embodiment, display screen 102 is positioned on an auxiliary panel (not shown) located in the cockpit of the aircraft. During aircraft operation, display screen 102 is available for viewing by a pilot and/or co-pilot of the aircraft. Display screen 102 may be used to view data included in an electronic flight bag (not shown), which may be embodied as a standalone device such as, but not limited to a PDA or laptop PC, or as a software component of a system executing on a processor that is part of a subsystem of the aircraft. In the exemplary embodiment, the electronic flight bag includes an electronic storage device configured to store various user-configurable flight-related objects for all required and desired information for a particular flight, such as flight routes, as defined by, for example, way-points, airport information, temporary flight restrictions, and weather information as well as any other user-defined objects associated with a flight, ground operations, and/or flight planning. The electronic flight bag receives data from various aircraft and ground sensors and systems, determines flight information based on the received data in real-time, and displays the flight information and/or alerts the flight crew through display screen 102 and other aural and/or visual indicators positioned on cockpit display panel 100. Such flight information provides the flight crew with additional situational awareness during all phases of aircraft operation.
FIG. 2 is a terrain image 200 of an exemplary area of the earth's surface. Each point or pixel on terrain image 200 is defined by a location coordinate and an elevation. In one embodiment, each pixel on terrain image 200 is represented as a geographical location on a sphere centered on the center of the earth wherein the periphery of the sphere corresponds to mean sea level. In the exemplary embodiment, a Cartesian coordinate system is used, however the coordinate system is not limited to only a Cartesian system, but rather any suitable coordinate system capable of performing the functions described herein may be used. Each pixel is located at a junction of a value along a first axis 202 and a value along a second axis 204. The pixel is further defined by a value along a third axis 206 or elevation.
FIG. 3 is an illustration of an exemplary en-route chart display 300 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In the exemplary embodiment, chart display 300 includes a terrain map 302 and chart symbol overlay 304. Terrain map 302 includes a three-dimensional representation of the terrain in a specific area of interest, for example, an area being traversed by an aircraft. Terrain map 302 provides situational awareness for a flight crew operating the aircraft.
Chart symbol overlay 304 includes symbols that depict navaids, navaid information boxes, waypoints, VOR radials, airports, special use airspace, airway/route data such as the airway identifications, bearings or radials, mileages, and altitude. Chart symbol overlay 304 also includes symbols that depict Off Route Obstruction Clearance Altitude (OROCA). As the symbols of chart symbol overlay 304 are overlaid on top of terrain map 302 on chart display 300 during operation, the combination of terrain and symbols may create a confusing visual depiction that is difficult for the flight crew to assimilate effectively during flight operations and/or flight planning.
In the exemplary embodiment, an elevation coordinate of the pixels that comprise terrain map 302 are compared to a selectable threshold. If the elevation coordinate represents an elevation less than the selected threshold, the pixel color is replaced with a background color or grayscale intensity predetermined to provide a contrast to the color and/or grayscale intensity of the pixels that include an elevation coordinate that represents and elevation greater than the selected threshold. The exemplary method electronically mimics a look-and-feel of some terrain-impacted area and terminal charts such that a primary navigation area of the chart is a uniform background color, while shading in proximate intrusive terrain. In the exemplary embodiment, the minimum elevation threshold at which terrain is visible is set via an API function. An API function is also used to set the colormap, light-source, and contour interval.
FIG. 4 is a flow chart of an exemplary method 400 of generating an en-route visible terrain display in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. Method 400 includes representing 402 each pixel of en-route visible terrain display using a geographical location and an elevation above a surface of the sphere, each pixel further represented using at least one of a color value and a grayscale value. A minimum elevation value is received 404 from a user or may be received from a flight information system that determines the minimum elevation value based on the aircraft operations and current position and direction. Method 400 includes setting the at least one of a color value and a grayscale value of the pixels represented by an elevation value less than the received minimum elevation value to a uniform value. The color value or grayscale level of each pixel comprising the terrain display is predetermined to facilitate visual contrast with other elements displayed on the en-route visible terrain display. For example, a brightness control and color rendition of the en-route visible terrain display may be selected based on an illumination of the cockpit, a time of day, a direction of flight with respect to an azimuth to the sun, and/or other factors that can affect the ability of the flight crew to effectively discern the features displayed on the en-route visible terrain display. In some cases, a member of the flight crew may alter the color or grayscale level of the uniform value. The color or grayscale level may also be controlled by a software selection based on a determination of an optimal color or grayscale level for the ambient lighting conditions. The en-route visible terrain display is displayed such that pixels representing terrain that includes an elevation value less than the minimum elevation value are displayed with the uniform value. The uniform value of the pixels representing elevations below the selected minimum elevation facilitate providing an uncluttered background for the chart symbols displayed in the primary navigation area of the en-route visible terrain display. Such uncluttering of the display facilitates flight crew awareness and tends to reduce confusion caused by the clutter.
The above-described methods and systems for generating an enroute visible terrain display are cost-effective and highly reliable. Representing terrain that is at an elevation that is less than a minimum elevation as a uniform color or grayscale reduces information overload occurring in the charting environment resulting in increased safety and less confusion my making non-terrain-impacted, primary-navigation areas of the display more easily readable. Accordingly, the methods and systems for generating an enroute visible terrain display facilitate navigation and situation awareness in a cost-effective and reliable manner.
While the invention has been described in terms of various specific embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modification within the spirit and scope of the claims.